Photographer

We watched “Photographer” on Disney+/NatGeo. This series has riveted me (for the most part). 

Muhammed Muheisen was one of the premiered photographers. He was an AP photographer during the Iraq war and other violent situations. He wanted to photograph the good in life, but AP needed him to serve up a series of newsworthy images. Muhammed’s images won awards. Like the soldiers he was documenting, Muhammed began to feel the wear and tear of war. He spent a lot of time in the local towns and villages when he wasn’t in the middle of a firefight and captured images of life in those villages. 

The more time Muhammed spent with refugee children, the more he wanted to capture their plight and do something about it. One day, he quit the AP after the violent death of his photographer friend in Kabul, Afghanistan, and he started using his skills to help refugee children. You can view his images on Everyday Refugees. He recognized the power of photography in how it tells stories and often says more than words can express. 

I learn from watching these shows. I often ask myself, “How can I improve my writing, photography, and graphic design?” How can I move people to do something like Muhammed? How can I tell better stories? How can I show emotion better through my photography? 

Self-Control On Social Media

“A soft answer [online] turns away wrath, but a harsh word [in reply to someone online] stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1, emphasis mine. Read James 3:3-6, too.

Tossing those words out there online that you feel in the moment without thought has consequences. In any situation, self-control is the one thing we have a choice in, but online it’s easy to just put words out there in the name of ministry, truth, or whatever we are using to justify our actions. Even as I write this, I know I have regrets in some of the words I once used online.

Grace to those who put their foot in their mouths and say the wrong thing. May we also learn forgiveness to those who hurt us deeply with words. The tongue is so hard to control, but used wisely can open doors or heal an injury.

📷 Prescott, AZ

Tell Better Stories

I like playing sports, but I don’t like watching games. Hence, each baseball game saw me reading a book in the stadium, and usually something so thick and outrageous that I would peek up at the jumbotron to see if the announcers noticed (because the Diamondbacks used to pan the camera to the audience to find something funny and unusual). I do like sports documentaries, though, and I find encouragement and lessons one can learn in them. 

Untold is a sports documentary series on Netflix. The first three I watched of the series encouraged me. Untold: The Race of The Century is about the Australian team’s determination to beat America in the America’s Cup race. The Australian team beat America by thinking outside the box. A man with no higher than a 12th-grade education redesigned their Sailing hydrofoil (completely within the rules). The team strategically kept the Sailing hydrofoil a secret until after the race was over. The New York Yacht Club elite would have dismissed this man, but the Australian team trusted each other and worked together. The man who made the Sailing hydrofoil didn’t let his lack of education fuel his insecurity, and keep him from helping his country. 

My current favorite, and one saved to my watchlist, is The Last Dance. This features Michael Jordan and the Bulls basketball team. It’s worth rewatching sometimes, and last night, the episode shared through interviews and commentary how Phil Jackson, the new coach, taught Michael Jordan to trust his team. The prior coach always put the ball into Michael Jordan’s hands. Phil Jackson wanted a more creative approach and taught Michael Jordan that his team was there to help. In one game, Michael was told to pass the ball to Paxson. Paxson made basket after basket. The opposing team kept trying to block Michael and didn’t expect him to pass the ball to Paxson. Through this, Michael learned teamwork. He put aside his own agenda for the good of the game. Michael is even known for mentoring others along the way, for example, Kobe Bryant. 

Most of the sports documentaries embrace reprehensible actions and scandals because that’s what makes ratings and money. Few good documentaries exist to show a story of overcoming something and making morally or biblically right, but difficult choices, or failing and making things right.

We need to tell better stories. The kind of stories that change lives and aren’t echo chambers. Getting comfortable is the enemy of creativity. An environment that lacks challenge means the creative can’t grow. Like in sports, the athlete has to train and listen to their coaches. The pain is momentary, but persevering through it means the results will be eternal. 

God-Sized Dreams

“Mordecai’s trust was in the faithfulness of God, not in the faithfulness of Esther. He knows that God will not let His people down, even if individuals let God down.” – Study Guide on Esther 4

What if Esther hadn’t listened to Mordicai to step into her calling to save the Jewish people? Mordecai trusted God to have a plan B. The courage of Esther is what we all need when we step into God’s role in our lives. Granted, most of us aren’t facing death in the King’s court for coming unsummoned into his presence, and we aren’t physically saving a Jewish people from annihilation. 

What we face, though, is…

  • What if we fail? 
  • What will people think of us or our dreams? 
  • The negative voices in our heads or insecurity. 
  • Family separation or division. 
  • Being judged. 

Like I said at The Outpour at Loving Life, we want to be liked as Christians. Following Jesus means we won’t always be liked. That’s never more apparent than when you serve on social media. As I told one Georgia church member, “Don’t let the negativity discourage you. Not everyone will like what you post. That’s okay.” 

God was very patient with me, teaching me to trust Him in small steps along the way, to risk more, and to stand when my instinct was to run. I failed enough in my life that, upon surrendering to Jesus, I wanted His way because my way wasn’t working and definitely wasn’t as satisfying as His way. Risk takes on a new meaning when you align with God’s will. In taking that first step, you are acknowledging complete trust that He is all-powerful and bigger than what is in the way.

Embrace those God-sized dreams but be patient. His timing isn’t always our timing. Trust Him to show up. 

Tongues on Fire

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. – Acts 2:1-4

What has this to do with social media?

Beth Moore in her James study book said, “You see, the human tongue can be lit by either source: Heaven or hell. God can draw people to the gospel by enabling us to speak in ways they understand or our tongues can cause people to hightail it like their heels are on fire. It can bring comfort or courage, or it can bring destruction and deafness. We do have a choice which fire lights our tongues. Just keep in mind the natural default settings leans south.”

God gave us this gift of social media to use for His Kingdom.

How to Visually Share Your Story

We process information with our emotions. While an artist’s tools are paint brushes, paint, and a canvas or a camera, social media gives us video, photos, and words to help people feel a part of our story. We can learn much from artists when using social media. Social media is a visual space, and often we only use it as a platform to opinionate or as a place to reframe our life in a way that doesn’t reflect our reality. What can we do differently online?  

James Coleman says, “When someone sees one of my paintings, I want them to really feel the place that I’m depicting. And so my desire is that they’re going to want to travel into that painting and become part of it. …” Note the words, “I want them to really feel the place I’m depicting” and “they’re going to want to travel into that painting and become a part of it”.

Rory Feek wrote, “What’s important to you? Don’t answer that…show us instead.” In writing, we say show us and not tell us what is happening in a scene. In social media show us without ego what’s important to you, like the artist with his paint brush or the writer with his words.

On social media, like in person, we all have different gifts. If you like helping people, you can use social media to connect with people you can disciple, share the Gospel with, or empower them to seek better choices and find practical help. If you like photography, you can use your gift to help people focus on positive things or help them see the needs in the community. If you are a writer, you can use your words and visuals to tell a story that may help clarify your friends’ or followers’ thoughts. If you are an artist, it’s more than a platform to share your work, but a place to invite people into your paintings and photography. Most importantly, as a Christian, it’s a place to ask good questions that let other people do the talking.  

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  

Rather than reframe our lives to reflect something we are not or to opinionate, instead think of how you can show what’s important to your life. How can I connect with you at church or at the market without having something in common? To find some common ground, we need to ask good questions, post good stories, and be visual.  

Suggestions to engage with others online:  

  • Show how prayer is important to your life.  
  • Show why church fellowship is important.  
  • Show why you love the things you love.  
  • Show vulnerability.  
  • Show what you are learning at church, in your Bible Study, or small group.  
  • Ask questions and listen. Show you are a good listener online.  
  • Use your photography, painting, drawings, graphic design, quilting, sewing projects, writing, etc to invite people into your life on a deeper level.  

And while these suggestions might be helpful, remember that people judge us by our actions. What we post online reflects our heart because that is an action, much like our in-person behavior, and it also reflects on our church, our jobs, and our Christ.  

Have fun and be discerning!  

(If you like this photo, make a donation to Gospel Impact Publishing and send me the receipt. I can email you the high-resolution photo for you to print and frame at home).

Upcoming Social Media Workshop!

A friend shared Proverbs 25:21-22 with me, and it helped me better understand it in light of the whole Bible. It reads, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

RedeemingGod.org said, “Proverbs 25:22 instructs us to give our enemy so many burning coals they have to carry them the way burdens are carried in the Middle East: in a container on the head. Then they can go back and immediately bake their bread without having to wait for the wood to become suitable coals for cooking. burning coals. This is quite different than setting someone’s head on fire.”

“When a person’s fire went out,” one commentary says in the article, “he needed to borrow some live coals to restart his fire.”  

We should use social media to “restart the fires” of those whose coals are cold, even if they are our enemies. This is not an easy task, and the effort has a cost.

Ephesians 6:12 says, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  This verse makes it easier to view others as image-bearers of God instead of an enemy or someone that offends us mightily. The cost is in the effort of self-control and choosing our words and battles wisely, and investing our time in others. This means learning about the people we follow on social media, their needs, and how to love and pray them to heart transformation. It also means being patient.

Baptism is just the start of a journey. We forget all the interactions that lead up to that baptism. We also forget the journey that follows to surrendering ourselves to the Lord.

On January 15, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., I am hosting a workshop on “Five Habits to Change on Your Social Media to Transform Your Heart and Community.”

Registration is required. If you want to learn how to restart the fires of those whose fires have gone out, join me that day to learn more. Maybe it will help restart your own fire?

WorldVenture is about engaging the world for Gospel impact through multiple disciples compelled by the love of God and willing to risk all so that people are transformed by God, impacting their families, communities, and the world.

And, God has given us the technology to make meaningful connections with people from all over the world. What’s stopping you from getting more involved in what God is doing?

(This is a WorldVenture event. Click here to register.)

When I Grow Up…

From the WorldVenture Blog Post

In 2015, Megan Murphy started “The Kindness Rock Project.” She left a rock on the beach of Cape Cod with the words “You’ve Got This” painted on it. Facebook rock painting groups began where communities did a grown-up Easter egg-like hunt for hand-painted rocks, leaving pictures with hints on Facebook groups so a family or person could find it and report it to the group. Over the past year or two, I’ve participated in this trend as a form of community outreach for online connections. Last week, my prayers yielded phenomenal results.

Kairi and her mom were hiking in the Dells in Prescott, Arizona when Kairi discovered my painted rock sitting near the Highline Trail. She turned the stone over and saw the contact information Modge-Podged and taped to the back.

The back of the rock contained a QR code, my email, and the instructions, “Please post to the Chino Valley Rock Facebook Group.” The QR code included a link to BibleGateway. Kairi sent me a message through her mom’s email account, saying, “Found your rock. I am 11-years old, and I want to do what you are doing. I want to be a missionary when I grow up.”

Read more by clicking here

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Working From Home: Adjustment

As I walked down the hallway to the kitchen this morning, I looked down at my bare feet. “When I am in full-time ministry,” I thought, “I wonder how often I’ll wear shoes?”

It’s a strange question. Dale Berning Sawa of The Guardian said in, Extreme loneliness or the perfect balance? How to work from home and stay healthy ,

“That often means getting the small things right, such as having a clearly defined workspace and a routine. Wahle starts work only once she has showered, got dressed and put her shoes on (curiously, she’s not the only remote worker who mentions the need for shoes). As she puts it: “How can you do planning applications, and still be in your pyjamas? It just doesn’t feel right.” (Emphasis mine)

Today was my day off from a 40-hour a week job. I wore jeans, a hoody, and still have yet to comb my hair. Short hair has an advantage. I can put a hat on. I live in the country where people put on their pajamas at 5 pm in the afternoon, door-to-door is taboo, and dressing up your jeans is considered semi-formal. But, walking barefoot reminded me that I need to be thinking of making adjustments to the days or hours I spend volunteering with WorldVenture (which is why Trello’s article on working from home is timely).

Trello wrote 7 Weird Ways to Stay Balanced When Working From Home. In this article, they outlined how to be a more productive person when working from home. I took this article and outlined what my work week might look like from this vantage point when I am in full-time ministry, starting now as a volunteer:

  • Get ready for work as if I was going to commute to an office. I don’t wear make-up these days unless I am speaking in front of a group or visiting a church. Mascara and eyeliner irritate my eyes. Lipstick wears off in ten minutes. Foundation doesn’t really cover up blemishes. Blush makes you look sunburned if done wrong. When I get ready for work, I plan on looking like I’m going to an office off-site. Video conferencing is a normal part of my activities so looking professional will still be important.
  • My hours won’t change in the mornings than what it is now. My morning routine will include coffee, prayer, reading the Bible, and casual and fun reading to relax the brain so it can work all day on creative projects. Writing will be included in my morning activities, maybe even by hand.
  • Going out in public. With no commute in my schedule, I can use that time to take a run or walk, but also I have arranged that I would take my office to a local coffee shop to spend a few hours working at least once per week. The only thing I can’t do remotely is video edit as that is on my desktop.
  • “Place things that need attention out of reach.” I once joked with Tony how I would love a coffee maker in my home office. I could work and refill my coffee without leaving my chair. Trello suggests we need to place these things out of reach. “Taking breaks is a key part of productivity, but it’s too easy to skip them when you’re alone. To avoid permanently bonding to your home office chair, try building regular “required” breaks into your environment.” Trello suggests leaving the phone in the other room so you have to get up every so often to answer it. Or, keeping snacks and drinks (like coffee) out of reach. At work, I would have to rise to refill my coffee. At home, I plan on doing the same thing.
  • Noise in the background makes you feel less lonely. I plan on building a good playlist of music, visit Lynda.com more often to refill the creativity, or have something playing in the background that brings noise and conversation into my quiet space.
  • Most importantly, Trello says, “Work like no one is watching.” Working from home means being diligent in making sure your work is no less than great, you must document you are working, and keep your shared calendar up to date so people are left with no doubt that you are working. Set goals each week to accomplish. You can also sing out loud in the office while you work and no one will hear you.

Yes, I will be wearing shoes when I am in full-time ministry. In the past, when I have worked on projects on the weekends after a full week of work elsewhere, I was more productive sitting in my office, fully dressed, hair combed, and spirit ready to face whatever may come of my day. But, today it’s okay to remain barefoot with hair like Einstein’s, uncombed.

How to Listen in Conflict

 

Remember playing tug-of-war? Two teams tugging at each end to get the other team to cross the line in the middle? That’s how I felt this week. I felt like the rope. How do you practice discernment when you feel like the rope?

  1. Pray.
  2. Listen first to each side, carefully weighing and sifting through the facts. Put aside your emotions.
  3. Be careful of opinions. They may be the wrong ones.
  4. Be kind and compassionate.
  5. You don’t have to take sides, and when you do have to make a decision, go back to number 2.

Romans 12:18-19 comes to mind,

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

This week I learned how to be a peacemaker. I learned to listen better. These lessons I write on my heart and it will take me into ministry when I am fully funded. God is using this season in my life to teach me things I’ll need when serving in ministry.

To become a monthly financial partner (it’s tax deductible), go here. Create a partner account and choose my name as the person you’d like to support. I would love to have you on my team.